There is a moving van parked in front of my house today. This is the house where I let life slip right through my multi-tasking fingers, but it is also the house where I grasped what mattered with two free hands and one committed heart.
Although my husband and I have moved four times since we were married, this fifth move feels like the hardest. As I drive the kids home from swim team practice, the mailboxes of my neighbors make me sad. As I walk the halls of my children’s school, the artwork of children I’ve watched grow brings tears to my eyes. Even the swing at the park remembers all the times I pushed small shoulders beneath flying hair and wiggly feet. Unlike the other moves, this one feels like a tragic loss.
Why? I’ve wondered over and over. What it is about this move that makes it more painful than the rest? As I’ve climbed the hill where I had my Hands Free breakdown-breakthrough, I’ve had some time to think about this. You see, I walk that hill almost everyday. To me, it’s holy ground—Mother Nature’s life-size reminder of where I once was and where I want to be: present, connected, and fully alive. My climbs up this hill are now numbered. I am down to two.
As I sweated my way up the hill the other day, I remembered my biggest worry when I moved here six years ago was that my younger daughter was still not walking. She was nearly two-years-old and preferred shuffling around upright on her knees. My husband and I joked that she might just slide across the stage with holey knees and a jubilant smile to accept her high school diploma. But alas, those worries were put to rest a few days after the moving boxes were unpacked. I’ll never forget how my curly-haired daughter stood right up, walked seventeen steps, and never looked back.
Yes, my daughter learned to walk in this house. I guess you could say so did I. I’d been running, running for so long that I’d forgotten how to slow down, to breathe, to live, not just merely survive.
It is here where I learned to live, really live.
This is the house where I learned to stop multi-tasking the moments away. On a golden yellow sofa my younger daughter learned to play the ukulele while I learned how to be still. My undivided attention was required as she plucked her C chord and G chord with awkward fingers. Through these daily practice sessions, I learned that playing by heart didn’t sound perfect, but it made a happy sound. I learned that ten minutes of loving connection with another human being had the power to bring healing and hope to a regretful soul.
This is the house where notes written in exquisite kid penmanship were plastered on kitchen cabinets, bathroom mirrors, and doorframes. They served as stop signs for my frenzied existence. Slow down. Don’t miss the love, the notes cautioned. Through the little papers that still hang in my bathroom cabinet today, I learned that stopping to give love meant a chance to be loved. I learned that what is most urgent in life must not be prioritized over what is most important in life.
This is the house where a sea of rice fell upon the kitchen floor… where fear gripped my older daughter’s face and I saw a bleak future for a mother who expected too much of herself and the people she loved … where I fell to my knees and helped my child sweep up a thousand tiny white grains while praying for strength to dismiss my inner bully … where “only love today” became a song in my head that I played on repeat.
This is the house where I began sharing my Hands Free journey with the world through this blog … where neighbors took off their cloak of perfection and stood with me in the light of realness … where children of the community know me as the lady who always wears hats, loves to show children how to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, and lives out her childhood dream of being a published author … where my kids and I are loved “as is” despite our flaws and imperfections.
This is the house where my older daughter made an impromptu garden smack dab in the middle of the back yard. Miraculously, I did not tell her to move it. And every time I looked out the kitchen window, that little garden reminded me to cultivate and protect the passions of my heart. I was reminded that what matters most must be nurtured and brought into the sunlight daily. Otherwise, our life’s true purpose is too easily buried and forgotten beneath the excess, hurry, and distractions of life.
This is the house where my younger daughter wrote her name on the wall of her closet and instead of yelling, I looked into that remorseful face and reached out my arms to hold her. I could not explain why, but as I did it, I felt such hope. It was the first real tangible sign that I was making progress on my journey to live more and love more in each precious day I am given.
Where I learned to walk instead of run …
Where I learned to reveal instead of hide …
Where I learned that the truth hurts, but truth heals and brings me closer to the person and parent I want to be.
It pains me to think about walking out of this house, but I’m okay with being sad for a spell. Long gone are the days when I would force a smile and say, “I’m fine,” through gritted teeth. Now I try to offer the gift of authenticity to myself and to those I love. I thought about that as my older daughter and I were purging her bedroom of old toys and unwanted items over the weekend.
As we worked together to stuff a gigantic stuffed bunny into a donation bag, she stood up abruptly and clutched the window with both hands. Looking out at her neighborhood of friends that have become like sisters, she somberly stated, “I don’t want to move away.”
My mouth opened to remind her of all the positives to come, but I quickly shut it. Instead I held her and whispered, “I know, baby. I know.” And then we cried together, neither of us ready to move on from that moment or these walls too quickly.
So as you see, the lessons of the Hands Free journey continue to emerge even as boxes line the halls and shiny coats of paint cover fingerprint smudges.
And there is great comfort in that.
Whether I am in Timbuktu or Home Sweet Home,
Whether I am in the midst of joy or pain,
Whether I am lost or I am found,
Life-changing discoveries are mine for the taking with two free hands and one committed heart.
I took one last walk with a beloved friend—the friend who has heard all my difficult truths, yet never left my side. As we walked, she was relaying what she told her daughter in the midst of teenage heartache. “Let’s look for the blessings,” my sweet Southern friend repeated the words she’d said to her daughter a day earlier. Little did she know, she was talking straight to my heart. “Let’s look for the blessings. We can’t see them yet, but we will. We will,” my friend said determinedly as we climbed our favorite hill together one last time.
All at once, I was powerfully reminded that there, among cardboard boxes, goodbye hugs, and tear-stained cheeks, are blessings yet unseen.
I will be looking for them. Oh, yes, I will be looking for them. Because I learned how, right here in this house. I have no doubt there are more lessons in new places and new people just waiting to be grasped.
And there is great comfort in that.
Some people love change and adventure, but I am not one of those people. I like familiarity and sameness. As a directionally challenged person, I like to know my way around. As a planner, I like to know what to expect. Needless to say, this move means I am going to be out of my element for awhile. Yet, I am seeing this as a positive—an opportunity to grow, open my eyes a little wider, and gather life-changing discoveries that come with stepping out of one’s comfort zone. I don’t want to miss a thing. I want to be available to my new surroundings, but most importantly, I want to be available to my family. I have decided to step away from the blog and The Hands Free Revolution page during this time of transition. When I began this blog, I vowed to live the life I write so I trust you know that is what I am doing. Thank you for understanding my absence and having faith I will be back sometime soon to share my stories with you. You are a blessing to me.
Feel free to share what lessons you have learned during major life changes. Please share how you are moving on literally or figuratively. I am always touched and inspired by what you write!
I leave you with a few beneficial tools to Grasp What Really Matters created by some awesomely brilliant colleagues of mine:
1) Rachel Miller and Holly Homer of Kids Activities Blog have immediately impacted my family’s summer with their newly released book! The fun-filled activities and projects in this book have created family bonding time, device-free time, learning experiences, and major independence! My school-age children were able to do many activities without adult assistance and all the materials we needed were on hand. You can read about the book here and order here.
3) Nothing thrills me more than seeing that my friends at The Happy Family Movement have created NED the Phone Monster! NED stands for No Electronic Distractions. NED sits on your kitchen counter as a landing place for phones. Because NED needs to be “fed” daily he helps you: “Put down your phone. Pick up your life.” Check out how you can support the kickstarter campaign and bring home a a NED of your very own!
4) Finally, I highly encourage you to reserve 5 quiet minutes to soak up these profound and affirming words about “present-moment success” by the talented Beth Berry. “How to Be Successful Without Completing a Thing” came to me when I most needed it and has offered me more peaceful exhales than I can count over the past few weeks.
One final note: I am very sorry that some subscribers of my blog have received old posts emailed to their inboxes over the past few days. I believe I know what triggered it, and hopefully it won't happen again. Thanks for your patience!